Reading-Stoke City Preview
LONDON (SE) -- Although Reading trail opponents Stoke City by seven points and seven Premier League places, they go into Saturday's game at the Britannia Stadium as the in-form team.
Stoke have failed to win any of their last six league matches, losing four, and have won just one in 10 since a 3-1 victory over Liverpool on Dec. 1. Reading, meanwhile, have won four of six after winning only once in their opening 19 matches.
Experienced Reading defender Ian Harte is looking for his side to maintain their momentum at a venue where they have prevailed their last two visits.
"Of course, we know it's going to be a physical and difficult game," Harte told the club's website. "We just need to look at our form and just keep it going. Hopefully the lads that have been away on international duty come back injury-free and we can get three points.
"They (Stoke) lost quite recently to Chelsea but we know what they're all about. Tony Pulis has got them well organised but we'll have to go there and stick to what we've been doing over the last few games. If we can do that, hopefully we can come away with the right result."
For Potters manager Pulis, games against Reading hold special significance. Almost a decade ago, Stoke avoided a damaging relegation to the third tier when Ade Akinbiyi's late goal secured a narrow victory over the Royals.
"Had we been relegated that day, I doubt that we would be here now talking about the Premier League," Pulis told the team's official website. "It's without question one of the defining moments in the club's history in my opinion and I will never forget that day.
"I will always be indebted to Ade and the club should, too. I can remember the goal as if it was only yesterday. Although we didn't need to win the game, a point would have done, those occasions can have so many twists and turns."
Stoke (6-12-7) have eight players, including Geoff Cameron and Kenwyne Jones returning from midweek international duty. Reading also have several internationals. Included among them are Jobi McAnuff, Adrian Mariappa and Garath McCleary, who all represented Jamaica as the Reggae Boyz ended Mexico's 19-game home winning streak in World Cup qualifiers with a 0-0 draw on Wednesday.
This match features the two weakest attacks in the division, attempting the fewest shots, fewest shots on target and completion of the fewest passes of any Premier League sides this season.
Overall, Reading (5-8-12) have the worst away form in the league, taking just five points from their 12 matches outside Madejski Stadium.
After a 0-0 draw with Tottenham on Dec. 22, Stoke led the Premier League with nine clean sheets. The Potters haven't kept another once since, allowing 17 goals in the seven matches since that draw.
Stoke's 325 fouls committed are the most in the league this season. They've also seen 53 cards, tied with Aston Villa for most in the division. Reading, on the other hand, have suffered 304 fouls, third most in the top flight.
The sides opened the season with a 1-1 draw. Michael Kightly scored just past the half-hour mark to give Stoke a lead they kept for nearly an hour. Dean Whitehead was sent off for a foul in the box, and Adam LeFondre converted from the spot to earn Reading a point.
That was the first league meeting between the sides since April 2006 in the Championship, though Stoke advanced in the 2008 League Cup on penalties at Reading's expense.